Cooper teacher puts $6,100 grant to work

Rachel Dickerson/The Weekly Vista Cooper Elementary School first-grade math teacher Amy Pinault recently received a grant from Casey's for $6,100 that she used for math supplies for the school.
Rachel Dickerson/The Weekly Vista Cooper Elementary School first-grade math teacher Amy Pinault recently received a grant from Casey's for $6,100 that she used for math supplies for the school.

Cooper Elementary School teacher Amy Pinault received a grant from Casey's that she used to purchase math materials for the school.

Pinault teaches first grade math at Cooper, and she received an email saying that Casey's was having grant opportunities. She took a chance and filled out an application. Her goal was to provide Math Stackers for six classes of 25 first-grade students and also a set for the math coach, Tamara Schonauer. She received a grant for $6,100.

Math Stackers are blocks with numbers on them that increase in size incrementally. When stacked, sums that are equal are the same height. For example, two fives stacked are the same height as an eight and a two, and both of these stacks are the same height as the 10 block.

"There's so many different uses for it. It's amazing," Pinault said. "When you're a child, there's different ways a child learns -- visual, auditory, tactile. This is all three. You're seeing it, you're talking with someone about it, but when they're tactile, that's the best part, because they can touch it. It gives them a really resilient math mindset. It gives them an incredible tool to help build their math knowledge.

"I think it's great for the math coach if she's talking about number progression -- the kids can see how it grows by one each time, like a set of stairs."

She said the blocks can be used for learning which numbers are larger or smaller than one another, for counting and for fractions. The blocks also come with matching magnets that can be put on a white board so that the teacher does not have to get the blocks out every time she wants to teach something, she said. For more information and to view photos, go to mathstackers.com.

"It was one of those things I saw and I was like, that would be a great thing to have, but I didn't have the budget for it," she said.

When she got word that she had received the grant, she said, "I totally did not expect it. When I got the email, I couldn't stop smiling for days. I'm excited that the students here in Bella Vista are going to have this hands-on experience."

"I'm very thankful to Casey's for giving us this opportunity," Pinault said. "The foundation we lay now will impact the entire community."

She has been teaching first grade math for 16 years at Cooper Elementary School, she said.

"It's always been very special, and we've had excellent principals the whole 16 years," she said. "I think one of the great things about working here is the community has been extremely supportive of us. It is appreciated by the teachers for sure."